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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Dr Elena Sottilotta

Elena Sottilotta

Full Name: Dr Elena Sottilotta

College: Murray Edwards College

Position: Research Fellow



Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics, Italian Section
Raised Faculty Building
University of Cambridge
Sidgwick Avenue
United Kingdom


Dr Elena Sottilotta is Research Fellow at Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge. A Fulbright alumna, she obtained her PhD from the University of Cambridge with a research project in women’s studies, folklore and fairy-tale studies, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Vice-Chancellor’s Award. Prior to joining Murray Edwards College, she was an AHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics at the University of Cambridge and a Visiting PhD researcher at Alma Mater Studiorum – Università di Bologna. She has published critical interpretations of the works of well-known and neglected women writers, folklorists and fairy-tale collectors with a transnational and interdisciplinary gaze. Her essays featured in several international peer-reviewed journals, including The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies, I.S. MED. – Interdisciplinary Studies on the Mediterranean, Women Language Literature in Italy, and P.R.I.S.M.I. Revue d’études italiennes.



Elena’s research interests hinge on women’s and gender studies, folklore and fairy-tale studies, children’s literature, fantasy literature, comparative literature and intermedia studies. Her research seeks to unearth non-canonical figures and narratives in the European fairy-tale tradition, with a focus on neglected women writers, collectors and storytellers. She also has a keen interest in the poetics and politics of adaptation of folk and fairy-tale narratives in contemporary media. Her broader research interests include Italian, Irish and Anglo-American literary crossings and oral traditions from the nineteenth century to the present, film and adaptation studies, Mediterranean studies, Gothic studies, island studies and language pedagogy. She is the founder of the Cambridge Research Network for Fairy-Tale Studies, an open space at the University of Cambridge aimed at connecting researchers with an interest in fairy tales.


Scholarships, prizes and awards

Elena received several scholarships, prizes and awards for her research, among these: the Women’s Studies Caucus Award (American Association for Italian Studies), the St. Catharine’s College Prize for Distinction in Research (St. Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge) and the Estella Canziani Postgraduate Bursary for Research (Folklore Society in London). During her academic path, she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to teach Italian language and culture in the United States (University of St. Thomas, Minnesota), and an Erasmus Mundus scholarship to attend the MA degree in comparative literature and intermedia studies Crossways in Cultural Narratives (University of Sheffield, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Université de Perpignan Via Domitia).


Key publications

Book Chapter on the Western and Southern European Fairy-Tale Traditions, in The Routledge Companion to Fairy Tales, edited by Claudia Schwabe and Christa Jones (in preparation).

2024 (forth.) “‘Miniere di fiabe’: Poetics of Space and Performance within and outside Angela Nardo Cibele’s Folk and Fairy-Tale Writings”, Women Language Literature in Italy / Donne Lingua Letteratura in Italia, 6.

2023 “(Re)Collections of a ‘Piccola Streghina’ from the Heart of the Mediterranean: Gender and Class Consciousness in Grazia Deledda’s Folkloric Writings”I.S. MED. – Interdisciplinary Studies on the Mediterranean, 1, edited by Giovanna Summerfield and Rosario Pollicino, 109-129.

2022 “Maria Savi-Lopez: The Portrait of a Neglected Woman Writer and Folklorist in Post-Unification Italy”, PRISMI Revue d’études italiennes, 3, 141-163.

2021 “From Avalon to Southern Italy: The Afterlife of Fata Morgana in Laura Gonzenbach’s Sicilianische Märchen (1870)”, Women Language Literature in Italy / Donne Lingua Letteratura in Italia, 3, 103-121.

2019 “Six Memos for Teaching Italian as a Foreign Language: Creativity, Storytelling, and Visual Imagination in the Language Classroom”, E-JournALL, EuroAmerican Journal of Applied Linguistics and Languages, 6.1, 37-55.

2018 “Maps, Razors, Monocles, Diamonds: Reading H. R. Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines through the lenses of Victorian Material Culture”, Estrema: Interdisciplinary Review for the Humanities, 11, 107-128.

2017 “Re-imagining the Gothic in Contemporary Serialised Media: An Intertextual and Intermedial Study of Neo-Victorian Monstrous Afterlives”, Crossways Journal, 1.1, 1-31.

2015 “Diabolical Crossings: Generic Transitions Between the Gothic and the Sensational in Dacre and Alcott”, The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies, 14, 81-99. (Reprinted in the volume Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism, 2019, edited by Rebecca Parks. Prod. Layman Poupard. Detroit: Gale, Cengage 375, pp. 113-123).


Edited Issues

2024 (forth.) Co-editor of “In/out: Women, Performance, Space in Italy” with Serena Laiena, Women Language Literature in Italy / Donne Lingua Letteratura in Italia, 6.

2022/23 Co-editor of “Donne in Sardegna. Creatività ed espressione di sé / Women in Sardinia: Creativity and Self-Expression”, Chronica Mundi, 16-17, with Sara Delmedico. Reviews of the special issue available in Il manifesto and in the journal of the association “Toponomastica femminile” Vitamine vaganti.



2022/23 “‘Le scritture rimangono’: Intervista a Michela Murgia”, Chronica Mundi, Special Issue Women in Sardinia: Creativity and Self-Expression, 2022-2023, 16-17, edited by Sara Delmedico and Elena Sottilotta, 277-288.

2021 “La centralità del linguaggio nell’Antropocene: Intervista a Vera Gheno”, Italian Minds Podcast, in partnership with the Cambridge University Italian Society.


Book Reviews

2021 Review of Laura Gonzenbach’s Fiabe siciliane, 2nd edition, trans. by Luisa Rubini, re-read by Vincenzo Consolo (Rome: Donzelli, 2019), Annali d’Italianistica, 540-542.


Selected Invited Lectures, Papers and Seminars:

2024 Conference Islands as Crossroads: Reimagining Mobilities in the Mediterranean, organised by Giovanna Di Matteo at CRASSH (Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities of the University of Cambridge). Paper: “Weaving Magical Islandness: The Journeys of Sardinian Fairies Across Centuries and Media.”

2023 Online Conference Representing Femininity: Constructing and Deconstructing the Image of Women between Modern and Contemporary Italy, organised by Sara Delmedico and Elena Musiani, University College Dublin and Alma Mater Studiorum – Università di Bologna, in partnership with the Women's History Archive in Bologna. Paper: “Damsels in Distress? (Re)Constructing Femininity in Italian Fairy-Tale Adaptations.”

2021/23 GEMMA Women’s and Gender Studies Erasmus Mundus Invited Lecturer on Women, Folklore and Fairy Tales in the Long Nineteenth Century, Alma Mater Studiorum, Università di Bologna.

2021 Long Nineteenth-Century Seminar Series, Faculty of History, University of Oxford. Seminar: “The Collection of Folklore in Post-Unification Italy: Peripheral Perspectives from Sardinia.”


Teaching experience

  • Lecturer for the MPhil Degree in European, Latin American and Comparative Literatures and Cultures, University of Cambridge, Module: “Marginalities in Nineteenth-Century European Culture.” Topic: “Echoes from Afar: Women Linguists, Folklorists and Storytellers in Nineteenth-Century Italy.”
  • Postgraduate Supervisor for the MPhil Degree in European, Latin American and Comparative Literatures and Cultures, University of Cambridge.
  • Lecturer and supervisor for IT5 “Italian Identities: Place, Language, and Culture”, University of Cambridge. Topic: ‘‘Between the Old and the New: Grazia Deledda’s Sardinia.”
  • Italian language supervisor and supervisor for IT1 “Texts and Contexts.”
  • Certified English and Italian language teacher (CELTA and DITALS) and Language Examiner (PLIDA and CELI). Elena has taught in Italy, England and the United States to language learners coming from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds, including university students, young learners, immigrants and refugees. Her interests in this field include creative approaches to language learning, creation of authentic didactic materials and implementation of storytelling and creative writing strategies in the FL/L2 classroom.


Conference organisation


Public engagement and outreach initiatives

  • Public engagement project Hopeful Folktales: Nurturing Diversity, Gender Equity and Social Justice through Tales of Old Times (Recipient of the University Council of Modern Languages Postgraduate Bursary).
  • Storytelling and creative writing workshop “Brave Heroines in a New Light: A Journey into Uncharted Italian Fairy Tales” within the multidisciplinary art exhibition on FINT (female, intersex, non-binary, transgender) folklore Buried Moons – Forgotten Tales from Beyond the Patriarchy, organised by Annie Randall and Emily Unsworth White in Bristol.
  • Co-organiser of the Gianni Rodari Virtual Theatre Show with theatre director Ludovico Nolfi, in partnership with the Cambridge University Italian Society.
  • PhD Tutor for the Brilliant Club Scholars Programme, an award-winning university access charity that recruits doctoral researchers to share their academic expertise in UK-state schools with pupils from underrepresented backgrounds.
  • Postgraduate Session Leader within the Postgraduate Outreach Scheme of the University of Cambridge.